I’ve tried multiple things to take time off during work hours and give myself a little productivity break. I’d watch reruns of Friends (self-control, where are you?) catch up with Koffee With Karan at times and Netflix (just one more episode, please?) even. However, I usually ended up getting more distracted and restless, along with even more work and guilt piling up at the end of the day. Plus eyes that were so strained that everything became a blur! As much of an avid reader I am, I just couldn’t read a book amidst the hustle bustle at work (audio books, you were never an option). I’d often see my editor hooked on to her headphones, vividly enjoying whatever she was consuming. Music, I’d assumed before. When I asked her what it was that she was always hooked on to, without having trouble to get back to work, I discovered an option waiting to be exploited—podcasts.
Umm okay, I’ve heard of them.
They cover every topic you can imagine and can fit into any timeframe, from a 5-minute break to an hour-long car ride. Apart from giving your eyes a much-needed break, the best ones are downright entertaining, in addition to being insanely useful. Plus you don’t always have to listen to stuff related to what you are currently working on.
Podcasts have increased in popularity at an extraordinary rate since the success of Serial (2014). Research in 2016 showed that more than a third of all Americans had listened to podcasts, with the time consumed ranging between three to ten hours or more.
Further explaining the lure of podcasts, an article by The Cut states that in an episode of the 2016 Freakonomics podcast, Jack Gallant, a neuroscientist from UC Berkeley, explains a study he was involved in, where subjects were put in an MRI, and they played episodes of The Moth Radio Hour, while scientists observed the effects on the brain (phew, long sentence alert). The result was that listening to audio content made the brain work much harder than scientists had previously assumed. It isn’t sure whether that increased activity is necessarily good for your mind, however, what does seem clear is that the reason why podcasts excite our brains is likely the same reason why they became popular in the first place: they tell stories.
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When you listen to a podcast, explains writer Sirena Bergman, it’s not just the part of your brain that processes sound and language that’s engaged. ‘If you’re listening to a story that involves, for instance, a pack of four barking dogs, one of which smells bad, the part of your brain that is linked to your sense of smell, as well as the part that is associated with numbers and math, will be highly engaged. Listening to podcasts, in other words, is not a passive activity.’ Because our brains need to work hard to take just an audio input and turn that into a whole sensory experience, is why podcasts can be so absorbing, keeping the brain in a state of heightened concentration.
While you wonder on how to begin, we help you figure which ones you can give a try-
- Fresh Air: Interviews about current events and contemporary art.
- All Things Considered: A recap of the day’s biggest stories.
- Intelligence Squared: Each episode is a debate between two teams trying to convince the live audience to vote for their side by the end of the discussion.
- TED Radio Hour: Interviews with TED talkers that dive in deeper.
- How to Be Amazing with Michael Ian Black: Interviews with personalities from all backgrounds in the creative fields.
- Creative Pep Talk: Motivational interviews with artists
Adulthood (because come on!)
- Adulthood Made Easy: Sam Zabell talks to experts about becoming a grownup, finding the perfect career and adult skills like cooking and keeping in touch with friends.
- Millennial: Megan Tan’s quest for a fulfilling career, her look into the post-grad world and the struggle in our 20s.
- StartUp: Stories about how businesses get started.
- How I Built This: Interviews with entrepreneurs about how their businesses began.
- Freakonomics: Stephen Dubner and Steven Levitt talk about all kinds of patterns and topics in economics, and society in general.
- The Splendid Table: Interviews and stories about food including food issues, recipes, preparation tips, and trends.
- America’s Test Kitchen Radio: Food, cultures, recipes and product testing
- The Real Food Podcast: Food and its origins, evolution, the meaning of ingredients and imaginative recipes
- Deck the Hallmark: Three guys from South Carolina analyse the plots of the best worst movies on television.
- The Dollop: Tells a little-known, quite strange, and often hilarious tale of American History
- Throwing Shade: Tackles LGBTQ issues, women’s rights, plus plenty of swears and pop culture references thrown in to make it hilarious
- Blank Check: Tracks a single director’s entire oeuvre, film by film, charting the progression of some of our greatest directors by the movie, the scene, and even shot-by-shot.
- The Rewatchables: Journalists talk about a film everyone has seen, breaking down what makes these movies so endlessly enjoyable.
- Dead Pilots Society: Talks about pilots made for TV and film that never got past the script phase at all. It takes those script pilots, and stages live readings, also interviewing the writers who saw their plans for a TV show fall through.
- My Favorite Murder: Digs into two different stories each week, combining irreverent humour with an empowering perspective that honours the experience of the crimes’ victims.
- In the dark: Focuses on the flaws of the criminal justice system through cases and reporters meticulously pick apart the prosecution case
- Trial by error: An Indian investigative podcast series that explores the incidents leading up to the murder and aftermath of Aarushi Talwar
- Slate: Re-examining well-known historical events with an eye for under-explored details and forgotten figures.
- History of India: Dive into ancient history with this punny, witty, and edgy series on the history of India, discussing the evolution of the caste system, merchant trader culture, and foreign emperors.